WASHINGTON D.C. – Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton tells Newsmax the Obama administration’s leaking of information about the new al-Qaida threat is “very dangerous” and could aid the enemy.
Bolton also says Obama still fails to recognize that we are “at war” with terrorism.
And he asserts that the new Iranian president’s promise to be less antagonistic to the West is merely a “charm offensive” designed to buy Iran more time to develop nuclear weapons.
Bolton served as U.N. ambassador from August 2005 to December 2006. He is now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a frequent contributor to Fox News and The Wall Street Journal.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV on Tuesday, Bolton discusses the terrorism threat — reportedly revealed in a telephone call from al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri — that compelled the United States to close many of its embassies.
“I was very surprised when I heard reference to and leaks from the Obama administration about this specific telephone call because it would be very unusual for Zawahiri to break communication security and be caught this way,” he says.
“But if in fact it did happen, obviously it’s not helpful to the United States to leak about it so that now if Zawahiri had any doubts, he knows that we have heard what he said.
“In general, this is another case of the administration leaking information which it thinks helps … but which in fact is very dangerous. If that is an accurate description of what we heard, though, it’s ironically a repudiation of the Obama administration’s whole story line on al-Qaida being on the road to defeat, al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan being a tiny sliver of what it used to be and really not responsible for operations worldwide, because that intercept proves exactly the opposite.”
Asked if it were possible that at least part of al-Qaida’s objective may have been realized — to demonstrate that it has the ability to shut down American embassies just by online and phone chatter — Bolton responds: “You can always speculate about whether this was real or not.
“Presumably the evaluation that the intelligence analyst gave to it was whether it was a ruse or whether it was real. Sitting where I am I certainly can’t second-guess their conclusion that it was real, and if people thought it was a real threat, we really didn’t have any option than to announce the closures.
“It raises the larger and obviously more important question about the effect of the weakening of the U.S. position against the terrorist threat that the Obama administration has brought about by not recognizing that we’re in a global war on terror and basically trying to argue that the war was basically over.
“We’re in a much weaker position and that’s attributable at the macro level to the incorrectness of Obama’s world view, that terrorism really isn’t that much of a threat, that you can treat it not as a war against us – which it is – but random, occasional, localized acts of violence.
“Ironically, just as we’re looking at these events in Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East, Maj. Nidal Hasan is on trial for the Fort Hood shootings, which the administration described as workplace violence by a lone wolf — not really part of the international terrorist threat. That’s also part of the unwillingness to see that the terrorists really do constitute a threat, that they are still at war with us whether we want to be at war or not.”
Bolton agrees that the Obama administration is splitting hairs by differentiating between various al-Qaida factions, and is wrong in trying to portray al-Qaida as just a fragment of its former self.
“That aids their narrative, that the war on terror is over,” he says. “It’s a mistake to think that al-Qaida was ever organized like a corporation or a military hierarchy.
“In its history it has had central control from the al-Qaida core over its affiliates,” Bolton said, adding that one of al-Qaida’s strengths is the “discretion and independence” it has given the al-Qaida groups in Iraq, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Maghreb in North Africa. “It means that al-Qaida continues even when, for example, we kill Osama bin Laden.”
“So trying to imagine that you can redefine al-Qaida to suit your purposes was always a mistake,” Bolton said. The terrorist group is “very adaptive” and is a “threat that doesn’t go away just because we hope it will.”
Hassan Rouhani has been sworn in as Iran’s new president and he’s promising to be less antagonistic to the West. Some say he may wish to talk directly with the United States about Iran’s nuclear program.
“All of this is part of a charm offensive that’s designed to lull the United States and Europe into more negotiations over the nuclear weapons program, which is simply intended to buy Iran more time to get closer to its 20-year-plus objective of getting deliverable nuclear weapons,” Bolton tells Newsmax.
“Rouhani has been through this strategy before, 10 years ago when he was the chief nuclear negotiator. It worked for Iran then. He thinks it will work for them again now. I call it the P.T. Barnum Doctrine, meaning there’s a sucker born every minute — and Iran is counting on us to fill that role again.
“We should reject [Iran’s] overtures but I don’t think we will. The Obama administration’s determined to negotiate. Rouhani is a moderate in the sense he’s smarter than [former president Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad in talking about the nuclear weapons program. … Rouhani knows that Iran and the nuclear weapons program are a lot better off if they’re put into the background.”
Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham arrived in Egypt to help steer talks between rival factions, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the military.
Bolton comments: “The Muslim Brotherhood itself is an anti-democratic institution. The Brotherhood is like a state within a state, and therefore whether it should even be permitted to participate in the Egyptian context, no differently than the Republican or Democratic parties in the United States, is very much open to question.
“A lot of people in Egypt say if we end up scheduling elections in six, nine, even 12 months, we’re just going to be repeating the mistake we made two years ago because the Brotherhood is the best-organized political force in Egypt. It will win the elections again, and it will once again begin mounting the kind of creeping coup toward a Sharia-based state that [Mohammed] Morsi was on the way to creating.
“We need to have a serious conversation not about whether people of deep religious views can participate in Egyptian politics — of course they should be able to — but whether an organization like the Brotherhood is suitable for participating in a real democratic society, and that is very doubtful,” Bolton said.
Bolton also says he is pessimistic about Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The fundamental differences between Israel and the Palestinians have not changed in the last six months or year, and I would argue that there is a potential downside for the United States having gotten these talks started if they fail, as I fear inevitably they will.
“We will have devoted a lot of time and energy and obviously a lot of American prestige in having the talks go forward, and if they fail, that will be seen as a failure of America’s strength in the region, and it will have adverse consequences for us, unfortunately.”
In an interview on Newsmax TV’s “The Steve Malzberg Show,” Bolton said the closing of the U.S. embassies was a valid and necessary step.
“It was the right thing to do … We’re not playing checkers here. This is very serious business,” he said.